An ErgoBaby carrier was not the first carrier I had. It isn’t even my favorite out of all of the many that have passed through here. Yet still, it holds a very special place in my heart. I am quick to recommend them, and to defend them against the barrage of Tula recommendations that accompanies any post that mentions the words “Ergo” and “uncomfortable”.
The Ergo was the first carrier I nursed in. It was mostly out of necessity. I was caught with a screaming baby in the Costco aisle, and I thought to myself “If I could just get my boob into her mouth!”… I fiddled around with the straps for a bit and lowered her to a place she could reach comfortably – and just like that I had found the answer to all of life’s problems. That moment of warehouse desperation changed the trajectory of my parenting relationship with my daughter. I went from a mother tied to my house and my baby and her around-the-clock nursing demands – to a busy, active mom able to seek out the community I would later thrive in.
I was not always an avid babywearer. The Ergo was so appealing to me, because of its ease of use. I had a ring sling which I adored, but sometimes I was in a hurry and did not take the time to put it on properly, leaving me feeling like it was uncomfortable and not always secure. I never had that issue with my Ergo. Even if I was completely alone with a screaming baby, standing in a parking lot at Target, or hiking with my other Mommy friends – I was confident in my ability to use my Ergo. It truly made me a more self-assured parent. In the mommy groups I attended in the early months of my daughter’s life, the majority of parents had front pack carriers, and they would often complain about how much their back hurt. I would excitedly show them my Ergo and demo a back carry for them. Even though I was new to it myself and probably made it look a heck of a lot more difficult than it should have been – many of them were impressed and bought an Ergo themselves so they could back carry on their own too.
I was like an Ergo evangelist, spreading the Ergo love everywhere. Buying them for friends, recommending them on forums, and demoing carries at La Leche League meetings – people must have thought I was getting kickbacks from them or something! (I’m not, by the way) I was a tad bit obsessed. I could not understand how anyone could spend basically the same amount of money on one of those uncomfortable front packs, when they could get an Ergo instead!
My partner was equally enthusiastic about the Ergo. We bought a second one (used) to have as our beater carrier – to keep in the car and always have around. We took that beater on our family vacation to NYC when our daughter was about 15 months old. She lived in that thing for the week! It was a lifesaver in the Urban environment. Traversing subway steps, riding in crowded train cars, exploring miles and miles on foot, taking ferries to see the statue – not having to deal with our stroller in places not meant to take a stroller, made the trip so much more enjoyable for us all.
It became my carrier of choice every time we traveled. When flying, I could wear her through security, and I would avoid those horrible body scanners altogether and have my hands free to drag luggage around. The ease of which I could switch her from my front to my back was ideal for a breastfeeding toddler – so I always had it on hand for hiking, grocery store trips, and amusement parks. Long after I started down the woven wrap rabbit hole, I still found myself grabbing for that Ergo anytime I was going to be out in public somewhere.
Three years, and 5 Ergos later… I don’t often wear my 3 year old in our Ergo these days. I pretty much just wrap now, sorry to say. My partner on the other hand, will *only* choose the Ergo if left to his own devices. He will wear other stuff if coerced, but he always says they never compare to “his Ergo”. He recently learned how to do a back carry on his own, and watching the pride he feels every time he gets her on his back by himself, is still a really heartwarming thing for me to witness.
We just came back from a trip to Tokyo, where I was teaching a class on Woven Wraps. My carry-on was filled with woven wraps and a linen Mei Tai for personal use, and my partner brought along his newly acquired Galaxy Grey Ergo to wear our daughter for those long days alone while mama was teaching. He was in good company, we saw Ergobaby all over Tokyo – more so than any other type of carrier. One night we were out to dinner with some of the women from my class, and my daughter started to fuss a lot. I grabbed the Ergo and strapped her in on my front to have a little break while we were finishing up our dinner. They all shared a laugh with me. Perhaps because of how funny a 3 year old looks in a front carry in an Ergo, or maybe because they had just listened to me talk about the joys of Woven Wraps for the last few days. Either way, I feel like it made me seem more familiar to them, this shared experience of a mother and an Ergo. The Ergo held its own in the Tokyo subways, the airports, the dirty fish markets I would never take my woven to… once again I found myself relieved that we had brought this tried and true carrier along on our journey.
I often hear from people that their Ergo is uncomfortable. For some people, it very well may be! Soft Structured Carriers (SSC’s) are all designed differently, and so some are better suited for some body types than others! I totally admit that it is not the right choice for every wearer – which can be said in turn for every other SSC out there. *But* 7 times out of 10 when someone says that, there is actually a solution to their discomfort! You would be amazed at how many people out there are wearing their Ergo incorrectly! I see it daily in grocery stores and out on the street. In honesty, the vast majority of folks I see using the Ergo out and about, could have a much better fit. I think because it seems so straightforward to use, many people just strap it on and go on with their lives without bothering to ensure they have a proper fit. So over time, it becomes more and more uncomfortable as their body is straining to support the weight that the carrier should be supporting. If this sounds like you – here is a list of some of the most common “fit issues” I see with an Ergo, and how to fix them.
- Waistband hurts my lower back
Front Carry – The waistband should be in a straight line around your body. The front should not be higher than the back, or vice versa. Make sure that the waist band is completely flush against your body, snug as it can go. You should not be able to slide your hand between the waistband and your body – there should be no space there.
Back Carry – same thing goes as far as the horizontal line with the waistband that is straight, without either side(front or back) being higher than the other. The waistband is designed to go on your hips, not on your waist, transferring the weight to your hips rather than shoulders using a design similar to a backpackers backpack.
- My upper back (shoulders) are killing me
As mentioned above, the position of the waistband can have a lot to do with where the weight is being carried, so check that first. Waistband is ok? Great. Next, let’s check out those arms straps. The majority of the time I see an Ergo on the street, the straps are let out way too loose. The baby or toddler is hanging out, leaning away from the caregiver, chillin. They are plenty comfortable, but the wearer is carrying all the weight on their shoulders instead of using the carrier’s design to support the child’s weight.
Baby carriers are best worn High & Tight. Bring that baby closer to your body, and then pull out all the inches and inches of extra slack that you have in those straps. Your baby’s head should be Close Enough to Kiss, and not dangling down by your belly button. In the process of tightening those straps, you will bring that chest clip down lower on your back, so it isn’t right on your shoulder blades – which is contributing to you being uncomfortable.
- Rubbing under your armpits
I recognize that for some caregivers, this is going to be an issue with this carrier regardless. As I mentioned earlier, every carrier fits everyone’s body type differently, and for some folks this is something that can be fixed – for others it makes the Ergo a no-go. I have had luck fixing this problem with the majority of wearers by adjusting the straps differently. The most common way, is to let out a little bit of slack in the shoulder straps on both sides, and then tighten the slack out of the clip going across your back instead. This tends to pull those straps out and away from your armpits, making it way more comfortable.
- Chest Clip rubbing on your neck.
I know that many people don’t realize that you can move that chest clip up and down on the carrier straps. The position is not fixed! I see caregivers surprised by this all the time, so I think it is worth mentioning. If you like them further down on your back but cannot reach them to clip them when they are there, then put them where you want them before putting the carrier on, clip it, let all the slack out on your shoulder straps, and then slip the clipped chest clip up over your head, then tighten the straps up.
- Toddler is too big and keeps leaning out.
Ok, this one usually causes me to have to restrain myself from eye-rolling a bit. I wear my (75th percentile for height) 3 year old in an Ergo just fine. An Ergo can most definitely last you through your toddler years. When I see toddlers hanging out of the back of Ergos, the majority of the time I find that they are a) Not all the way down in the seat and b) the straps are way too loose. If this is a problem you feel like you are having, a good way to get your kid deeper into that seat, is to grab the straps at the top of your shoulders, pull them upwards, and bounce a couple times to make sure your toddler gets all the way down into that seat. At that point, grab those straps under your arms and adjust them to as tight as you can get them, so your toddlers back is being supported, and they cannot lean away from you so far. This will help keep them more secure, and help keep you from straining to compensate for them leaning backwards away from you.
These are just a few suggestions for the most common Ergo fit issues I see out and about. I encourage you to seek help with your carrier if you are feeling uncomfortable. The solution is not always that you need another carrier! (Unless you really want one, obviously) Sometimes you may just need some tweaking with the one you already have!
I realize this comes off as a Love Letter to Ergo Baby, but as I said – they are always going to have a special place in my heart. I think they are wonderful carriers, and I am thrilled that there is a carrier on the market that is safe and comfortable and versatile – that I can send someone to Target to get. It is such an accessible carrier, and that is what really makes it stand out to me above all the others.